THE SOUND OF SILENCE
It happened at 4:30 on Thursday before Good Friday. A four-day weekend just minutes away. I was in the kitchen unpacking groceries and listening to a podcast when suddenly my Alexa went silent.
I didn’t panic. The damn thing had acted up before. So I went into the bedroom and asked another Alexa for the podcast. Nothing.
I was about to fire off another angry email to Amazon, when I looked at my phone. No Wi-Fi.
Okay, now my heart was beginning to pound. I hustled over to the TV. I did all the usual. I rebooted the modem and the Wi-Fi extender. Still nothing.
At this point I was really becoming panicky. Four days with no TV, no radio, no podcasts…without anything!
I was torn. Do I share my fear? Do I call my husband who’s looking forward to the weekend and shatter his happiness? I knew he’d take it hard. We can’t even get through a Sunday lunch without a newspaper.
Then I remembered the two wall plugs that shut down everything. They’re almost inaccessible, but I was on fire. I flattened myself like a snake and slithered across the floor, creeping under the shelves and cabinets that hold the equipment. I almost ripped my arm out of its socket but I managed to shut down the works.
I waited five minutes, then got back down, crawling along the floor. I passed dust balls that I vowed I’d clean tomorrow if I got things back on line. I turned the system back on.
Okay, now I’m really scared. I called my service provider. There was no record of any problems in my area.
I tried to calm myself and went into self-examination mode Why can’t I just look forward to some peace and quiet? I could, for example, read a book. Take up painting. Go for a walk. A very very long walk.
And what if Trump said something outrageous and I was not there to witness it in real time? And how about the Netflix series I was hoping to binge?
It would be just like living in the 18th century.
Maybe my husband and I could sit in the car and listen to the radio…for 4 days. What time does Starbucks close?
I own many devices and I love them all. But they don’t love me. They can stop and walk out on me. Just like an unfaithful husband or an ungrateful child.
I was once told I was an excitement addict. I now knew it was true. Because now I was confronting my greatest fear. No distractions.
Don’t get me wrong if I were somewhere, say like basecamp in the Himalayas, I could break the addiction, at least for a limited period. I managed it in Botswana, but then there was that family of lions running through our tented camp to distract us.
However this time I was at home, all our friends were busy, and it would be just my husband and me… together…for 96 long hours.
It was now 5pm. There I was, in the deathly silence of the slowly darkening evening, and I had time to think, way too much time.
People talk about young kids being addicted to their phones but quite honestly I see almost as many older people glued to them. They talk about the web as intentionally making itself addictive and I suppose that’s true. But in truth I think the problem is in us.
Without distractions, it would be like having insomnia. It would be like a bad night when you lie awake, experiencing all the unpleasant feelings you’ve been able to tamp down in the day by finding something to divert and amuse.
So I don’t just think it’s me and my husband. I think it’s in human nature to want to be distracted.
And it probably always was.
I’ll bet if Instagram had existed at the time, Virginia Woolf would have had an account. Do you think Abe Lincoln could have resisted Twitter? And how many TV screens would Attila the Hun have watched when he came home from his raping and pillaging?
Eventually the service provider did put an alert on its website that there was a disruption in our area. From there it only took half an hour before they fixed the problem. When I told my husband what had happened I saw the fear in his eyes and the relief that it was over before he knew about it.
So with a sigh of contentment, my husband and I settled down. I brought out some snacks and we turned on the evening news.There was breaking news, as always. He had tweeted something terrible, as always. We were horrified, as usual. Life was good.
It had only been an hour but in that very long hour I had confronted my worst fear. And thank God I was able to run from it.
TURNING POINTS from Crowd-Writing
a book by Shelley Katz